May 2017 Bible Questions & Answers

Topics:  “different types” of Christians, defining heaven, why the Bible is called “the Bible,” determining if we are living in the kingdom of God, how the continents were shaped at the beginning of time, defining “the man of sin” and “the son of perdition” in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Are there different types of Christians?

There are two ways to look at this question.  First, many members of denominations take a very ecumenical view of Christianity.  In other words, they hold to the notion that most if not all of the different denominations, sects and cults which profess to be Christian are legitimate in spite of their differences in faith and man-made doctrines which add to or take away from the Word of God.  Thus, they say that the different churches represent different kinds of Christians.  A Catholic is a Christian just like a Baptist is a Christian or a Mormon is a Christian; they’re just different kinds of Christians.

This view is incorrect because the Bible says that there is only one church as far as God is concerned.  That church is called the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), and there is only one body (Eph. 4:4); thus, there is only one church.  In contrast, there are many churches which make up the denominations, sects and cults of Christendom.  Yet as far as God is concerned there is only one church.

There is also only one faith (Eph. 4:5), and that faith is based solely on the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).  Denominations, sects and cults add to and subtract from God’s Word with their man-made doctrines and traditions, something which is condemned (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; 1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:6-9; Rev. 22:18-19).   Thus, the various faiths based on those man-made doctrines do not constitute the one faith God recognizes which is based solely on His Word.  This is why professed followers of Christ whose faith is based on man-made doctrines are not truly Christians in the sight of God.

God’s Word also condemns division among all who would be followers of God and demands that they all “speak the same thing” (1 Cor. 1:10-13; Phil. 2:1-2; John 17:20-23).  Denominations, sects and cults profess to be Christian, but they are divided in that they believe and teach different doctrines.  Those doctrines are man-made and thus do not constitute the “one faith” professed by those in the “one body” of Christ which is His one church.

Thus, the notion that the various denominations, sects and cults of Christendom make up “different types of Christians” is mistaken.

The second way to look at this question is based on the fact that there are Christians – members of that one body of Christ, His only church – who are consistently faithful and obedient…and Christians who consistently are not faithful and obedient.

The parable of the sower teaches that some would initially obey the gospel only to then either fall away completely due to trials or be distracted from bearing fruit due to worldly cares, riches and pleasures; these are marked in contrast from those who initially obeyed the gospel and bore fruit faithfully (Lk. 8:13-15).

The parable of the wheat and the tares teaches that some in the kingdom of Christ would be removed from the kingdom on Judgment Day due to being stumbling blocks and lawbreakers; these are marked in contrast from those in the kingdom who are righteous (Matt. 13:41-43).

Thus, the Bible teaches that there are different types of Christians in the sense that there are consistently faithful, penitent, obedient Christians who are diligently striving to grow in all areas into what Christ wants them to be…and there are consistently unfaithful, unrepentant, disobedient Christians who have “lost their first love” (Rev. 2:4), are “lukewarm” (Rev. 3:15-16), and will be cast out of the kingdom on Judgment Day if they do not repent and become faithful.

What is heaven?

The Bible speaks of four different heavens:

  1. Where the birds fly (Jer. 15:3), the sky.  This will be destroyed at the Lord’s return (Matt. 24:35; 2 Pet. 3:10-11).
  2. Where the planets and stars are (Is. 13:10), space.  This will also be destroyed at the Lord’s return (Matt. 24:35; 2 Pet. 3:10-11).
  3. Paradise, the part of Hades where Jesus and the thief, Lazarus and Paul were (Lk. 16:23; 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:2-4; cf. Acts 14:19-20).  This will be cast into the lake of fire on Judgment Day (Rev. 20:13-14).
  4. Where God dwells (Ps. 11:14).  This is where the saved will spend eternity after Judgment (Matt. 25:46; 1 Pet. 1:4; Rev. 21:1-3).

Why is the Bible called “the Bible”?

The term Bible is derived from Greek.  Ancient books were written on the byblos or papyrus reed.  From byblos came the Greek word for “book,” which is biblos.  Biblos is used in Matthew 1:1:  “The book (biblos) of the genealogy of Jesus Christ…”

As the books of Scripture were written, early Christians began to refer to them as “the Books, ” or “the Biblia”…the Bible.

Are we living in the kingdom of God?

The kingdom of God is spoken of in two ways in the Bible.  First, it was prophesied to come during the days of the Roman Empire (Dan. 2:44).  During the reign of Caesar Augustus, both John and Jesus said that the kingdom was “at hand,” i.e., that it was coming soon (Matt. 3:2; 4:17).  Jesus said that it would come with power during the lifetime of His apostles (Mark 9:1) and that it was not a worldly kingdom, but a spiritual one (Lk. 17:20-21; Jn. 18:36).  After His resurrection, when asked if He would restore the kingdom to Israel, He answered by referring to the events of Pentecost which were soon to occur (Acts 1:6-8).

On the day of Pentecost, the church began (Acts 2).  After that event, the kingdom was never spoken of again as not having yet arrived.  It would from then on always be spoken of as presently existing (Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:12; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 1:6, 9).  Thus, the kingdom of God and the church are one and the same.  They are even spoken of interchangeably by Jesus (Matt. 16:18-19).

Therefore, Christians are presently living in the kingdom of God, the church.

Secondly, the kingdom of God is spoken of in an eternal sense.  We see this when Peter tells Christians, who as we have seen are presently citizens of the kingdom, that “there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” if they diligently add to their faith the Christian graces he listed (2 Pet. 1:5-11).

On the day of Judgment, Jesus will give the kingdom back to His Father (1 Cor. 15:24).  All unfaithful Christians who are in the kingdom (“all causes of sin and all lawbreakers”) will be gathered out of the kingdom by Christ’s angels and cast into hell (Matt. 13:41-42).  The faithful Christians shall remain in the kingdom and thus be with their heavenly Father eternally (Matt. 13:43).

Thus, we who are presently in God’s kingdom, the church, should heed Peter’s warning to “make our calling and election sure” by diligently working to grow in the areas 2 Peter 1:5-10 tells us to so that we will receive that entrance into the eternal kingdom (v. 11).

How were the continents shaped in the beginning of time?

In the beginning, the earth was without form, void, and there was nothing but water (Gen. 1:2).

Then on the third day of creation, God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear” (Gen. 1:9).

Since all the water under the heavens was gathered together in one place, it logically follows that all the land was also in one place.  There is geological evidence that this was once so.

Looking at the way the continents are now gives one the impression that they all could have at one time fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  South America and Africa in particular look like they were at one time joined together.  This giant singular land mass is commonly called “Pangea” by scientists and geologists.

When the global flood during Noah’s day occurred, the Bible says “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth” (Gen. 7:11).  What would that cause?

Scientists surmise that a huge flow of magma and volcanic activity began the process that “drove the land mass [Pangea] apart to create the Atlantic Ocean, at the same time dispersing evidence of the eruption widely on the margins of four continents” (Science, 4/23/99).  In other words, the split of Pangea began to take place in one huge, cataclysmic volcanic eruption.

This heavy volcanic and magmatic activity is precisely what would occur when “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth” (Gen. 7:11).  The force and magnitude of the global flood, coupled with the ensuing volcanic and geologically cataclysmic activity, would be more than enough cause for accelerated rates of continental drift, resulting in how the continents look today.

For more information, see  “Pangea and the Flood,” by Kyle Butt.  I owe much to his article in my research of this question.

What was Paul talking about in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 when he talked about not being deceived and the coming of the Lord not occurring until certain things had taken place, including the “man of sin” placing himself in the “temple of God”?

In Paul’s first letter to Thessalonica, he talked about Christ’s return (1 Th. 4:13-5:10).  Since that time, the Christians at Thessalonica had either misunderstood what he had said or had been influenced by false teaching.

Apparently some were teaching the Thessalonians that the Lord had already returned.  Paul wanted to correct this false teaching in his second letter to the church at Thessalonica (2 Thess. 2:1-2).

God inspired Paul to prophesy that the Lord’s second coming could not yet have come “unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,  who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).

“Apostasy” (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:12) means “falling away.”  The definite article “the”  shows that Paul has in mind a definite rebellious movement rather than speaking generally about the principle of rebelliousness.

Paul then proceeds in the following verses to describe this specific falling away from the Christian faith, the ultimate result of which he subsequently calls “the man of lawlessness” and “son of destruction” (called by various translations as “the man of sin” and “the son of perdition.”)

First, at the time Paul wrote this in the first century AD, this sinister force was yet to be revealed (v. 3).  He did say that the early stages of this apostasy was “already at work” (v. 7) during his day.  The Greek term and the tense in which it is used suggests that during Paul’s day this movement currently was working itself towards a greater goal.  It was in its infancy during Paul’s day, already operative but not yet “revealed” due to being “restrained” by a force the Thessalonians personally observed (v. 6)

Thus during Paul’s day it had not yet evolved to the point where it could be definitively identified by the early Christians.  It would come at some point after Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians.

Paul designated this rebellious movement as “the man of sin/lawlessness” because sin was the dominant force behind it.  This character, referred to in the Greek in both neutral and masculine genders (vs. 6-7), was also called “the son of destruction/perdition” (v. 3) because its end would be destruction brought about by God Himself (v. 8).

Paul also calls this opponent of God “the lawless one” because this power has no regard for God’s laws (v. 8).

This “man of lawlessness” opposes God and exalts himself against all that is genuinely sacred (v. 4).  He acts like he is religious, but his true character shows that he is evil.  What he does is actually according to the working of Satan (v. 9).

In some sense, the “man of lawlessness” will “take his seat” in the temple of God (v. 4).  Paul never referred to the temple of God as the Jewish house of worship in Jerusalem; rather, he used the term to refer to the church as a whole (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:21) or as the individual Christian’s body (1 Cor. 6:19).  Thus, Paul is implying that this unholy being would be viewed as a “church” character.

The language behind the expression takes his seat in the temple of God” describes the “man of sin” as attempting to receive worship from people.  Thus, it comes as no surprise that this “son of destruction…proclaims himself to be God” (v. 4).  The verb tense in the Greek behind the verb “proclaims himself” shows that this happens continually and thus is characteristic of the “man of lawlessness.”

Thus, this person represents himself as God by either making claims that belong only to deity, receiving adoration reserved exclusively for God, or by usurping prerogatives which only God can accomplish.  He is clearly a religious figure.

The “man of sin” also uses “false signs and wonders” (pseudo-miracles) to deceive those who refuse to love the truth (vs. 9-10).  Thus, to identify the “son of perdition” one must look for a post-apostolic movement that claims to prove its authenticity by working miracles.

The “man of sin,” though having roots in the world of first-century Christianity (v. 6), would nevertheless endure in some form or another until the second coming of Christ, at which time he will be destroyed by the Lord’s word of Judgment (v. 8).  Thus, the “man of sin” cannot be some persecuting enemy from biblical times that no longer exists today.  He is still around.

Based on this biblical evidence, it is most likely the “man of lawlessness” represents the papacy of the apostate church of Rome.  Consider:

  • The Roman Catholic system and its papal dynasty was the result of a gradual apostasy from the original faith of Christianity. Paul prophesied that the falling away from the faith would be characterized by doctrines which would prove to be linked to Roman Catholicism such as celibacy, abstinence from certain foods, etc. (1 Tim. 4:1-3).  Catholicism’s many corruptions of doctrine (sprinkling for baptism, infant baptism, mass, venerating Mary, etc.) were progressively implemented.
  • The apostasy which resulted in Catholicism was barely beginning in the first century, but it would not be fully revealed until centuries later.
  • Roman Catholicism has continually shown itself to be lawless with regard to the doctrine of God throughout its history. It is said of the pope that he “doeth whatsoever he listeth [wills], even things unlawful, and is more than God.”  One Catholic writer has shown that, according to Catholicism, “tradition,” i.e., the voice of the church, is superior to the Scriptures.  This is the essence of sin.
  • The papacy opposes God, as shown by claiming to be more than God.
  • The papacy “takes their seat in the temple of God,” i.e., the church. The pope claims that Christ is the head of the church in heaven, but the pope is the head of the church on earth, in direct contradiction of Scripture (Matt. 28:18; Col. 1:18)
  • The papacy opposes God, as shown by claiming to be more than God.
  • The papacy “takes their seat in the temple of God,” i.e., the church. The pope claims that Christ is the head of the church in heaven, but the pope is the head of the church on earth, in direct contradiction of Scripture (Matt. 28:18; Col. 1:18)
  • It is likely that the force that “restrained” the initial revelation of corrupt Catholicism was the Roman empire itself, something which the first-century Thessalonians would have observed as Paul said (v. 6).  History shows that when the Roman empire fell in 476 AD, great power was given to the leaders of the apostate church of that day.  That caused the power of the Catholic church to increase rapidly, causing it to become a political, governmental power (which it continues to be to this day.)
  • The Roman Catholic Church has existed for centuries by now and shows no sign of ceasing to exist in any way. Thus, it will surely still be around when Christ comes again.  On that day, the word of the Lord will judge it to be false and thus bring about its destruction, exactly as Paul prophesied (v. 8).

In closing, let us examine those described in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, those “who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Let that not ever describe you and me!!

It depends on how honest we are with ourselves when we study God’s Word and apply it to ourselves.  (Luke 8:15)

For more insight into this question, I recommend Wayne Jackson’s article in the Christian Courier.  It was invaluable to me in helping me research this question.